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Harrek

Casualty rate in Gloranthan battles?

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Hello, we have been playing a few mass battles in our campaign using different systems to model it. Now we are using a modified Warhamster to model the battles. My question is, however, more about the world itself, that’s why I started this new topic here (there’s an ongoing discussion about Gloranthan battles in Runequest-subforum).

My question is: What is the casualty rate in Gloranthan battles? By casualties I mean death or severe injury.

This depends of course of few things: what kind of battle we are fighting (a small clash between clans vs Battle of Heroes), who are fighting and against what kind of opponent, what is the purpose of the battle etc. Just to mention few things...

And I’m interested about "casual" fights not involving Harrek, Crimson Bat or other "nukes".

I also did some internet research about the matter:

-Historically the casualty rate has been something like 5-50% depending much of the battle.

-Casualties for the losing side are 2-4 times the casualties of the winning party

-Historically diseases killed as much or even more than the actual battles

-More advanced military technology results more casualties

-There is a huge difference in casualties between different types of battles: the small scale fights of the early Middle Ages were relatively safe for both sides, the huge battles of the late Middle Ages were much more dangerous

See for example:

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/5883/how-severe-were-the-casualties-in-ancient-medieval-battles

https://www.quora.com/How-has-mortality-rate-per-battle-changed-throughout-history-i-e-how-has-the-number-of-casualties-per-battle-as-a-function-of-total-combatants-in-each-changed-over-the-course-of-history

Glorantha is a magical world, how does magic effect the casualties in battles? On the other hand there is healing magic, and on the other hand there is some hardcore war/killing magic.

Morale certainly plays a very important role in battles. In our games for example, it is usually the morale which is kind of resolving the battle.

Then there is a type of a fighting force: I guess trolls for example, try to catch some of the opponents alive to eat them later, Praxians might also try to get some prisoners as slaves etc. And on the other hand, Zorak Zorani berserks would just kill everyone and maybe raise few as zombies later.

Any ideas?

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1 hour ago, Harrek said:

Morale certainly plays a very important role in battles. In our games for example, it is usually the morale which is kind of resolving the battle.

Then there is a type of a fighting force: I guess trolls for example, try to catch some of the opponents alive to eat them later, Praxians might also try to get some prisoners as slaves etc. And on the other hand, Zorak Zorani berserks would just kill everyone and maybe raise few as zombies later.

Any ideas?

Treatment of Prisoners

Sometimes ordinary prisoners are slaughtered or mutilated on the battlefield or sacrificed to the more bloodthirsty War Gods, other times ransomed or sold as slaves.

 

Ransom

Wounded prisoners are often killed or left to die; healing and first aid are reserved for friends and comrades, unless the prisoner can offer a ransom or might prove a useful hostage or source of intelligence.

Feuding Orlanthi clans will usually ransom captured foes. In war between nations, often only important enemies are held for ransom or as hostages.

A certain professional courtesy is observed between mercenaries, as captured colleagues are unfortunate members of the same profession. High ranking officers are ransomed, whilst ordinary mercenaries are disarmed and sent on their way, or may be offered a new contract and pressed into service.

Such enlightened behavior is not universal.

As feeding and billeting captured foemen would be expensive, common soldiers may be slain or enslaved if the victor is not interested in taking the time to obtain a ransom.

 

Human Sacrifice

War captives are a ready supply of potential sacrifices.

Criminals, rebels and prisoners are regularly sacrificed in Temples of the Reaching Moon to feed Yara Aranis and power the Glowline; their tortured souls are bound forever to the temple as slaves and guardians. An even worse fate is being fed to the Crimson Bat.

Many of the darker Earth cults frequently make human sacrifices to their deities.

In Oraya, human sacrifice by Earth and Lunar cults associated with Hon-eel, including Naveria and various unusual Oria cults, is more widely practiced than in the other satrapies. Since the time of Hon-eel, Karantes the Red City has been a center for human sacrifice.

The rites of Maran Gor involve sacrifice and cannibalism.

Ana Gor is the goddess of human sacrifice and the sovereign power of Dragon Pass. Her priestesses sacrifice humans, often captured enemies, to Humakt, Maran, Babeester Gor, Ty Kora Tek and the darker aspects of Ernalda.

 

Slavery

Slaves may be taken in raids or as prisoners of war. The slave trade is a lucrative source of wealth.

Most Pelorian cultures use slaves and many Orlanthi keep thralls. Captives are commonly put to work as field or herd workers. The customs of much of the Holy Country are similar. A cult of freedom there opposes the practice, but does not try to force freedom upon unfeeling owners, and Kethaela imports slaves from the surrounding lands, including from the West via the Manirian Road.

The treatment of slaves in Solar, Lunar and Storm cultures are not very different. Slave estates in lowland Peloria, and smaller manors in the Lunar Provinces are economically important, providing income for the nobility. The grantlands provided to Lunar veterans often include a population of slave laborers.

The life of slaves varies; those who are household servants or concubines to nobles, thanes, and priests are generally well treated; those with useful skills may work as valued artisans in workshops; women may be set to work weaving in manufactories; field slaves do back-breaking work on the farms and their lives are often short. Even more unfortunate are those sent to the quarries or mines. Others might be sent to fight and die in a distant gladiatorial arena.

Slave status is often indicated by close-cropped hair and leather slave-collars. Captured warriors working in the fields are chained by the neck or hobbled so that they cannot run away. Recalcitrant and frequent run-aways are secured in heavy bronze slave collars.

Only magically powerful prisoners are held in the expensive slave bracelets and collars imported from far-off Vormain. These bind the wearer's souls, thereby insuring their passivity and greatly reducing any chance of escape. Such potent captives are often ultimately destined for sacrifice or execution.

When raiding other peoples, slaves are often ranked ahead of horses, cattle, and trade metals as prizes.

Slaves captured in war and cross-border raids are a common sight in many marketplaces. Slave auctions are regularly held in Tarshite cities of newly taken war captives. The town of Slavewall, as its name denotes, is the site of a major slave market dealing with captives from as far away as Balazar and Prax.

The tribes of Prax constantly raid each other and take captives as slaves. Pimper’s Block is a thriving slave market on the border between Dragon Pass and Prax, where warriors come to sell their conquered foes. Some captives are kept as slaves, wearing leather thongs about their necks as a mark of their status, and they do much the same work they did while with their own tribes. Some may be adopted or married into the tribe of their captor.

In Pent, slaves are common, often taken from another tribe during the incessant raiding or in raids on the Lunar Empire. Male slaves are often gelded. Zangshi Kinool in the Kingdom of Ignorance is the location of an important slave market for the Pentans, with even captives from far-off Peloria being sold there.

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Thanks. I quess that in most of the battles, it's the breaking of the morale that keeps the casualties relativily low. This means that the losing side tries to retreat/escape from the battle when things go badly (if possible). The winning side may or may not pursue them...

Only the most hardcore units are ready to fight to death(humakti, berserks etc.). 

Edited by Harrek

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Glorantha ought to have substantially lower casualties than during similar time periods in the real world - yes, a fair number of people get killed outright in battle, or left on the battlefield by the losing side, but wound treatment in Glorantha is vastly superior to anything in our world pre-modern age (and might even be better than current battlefield medicine), and disease deaths on campaign are at the very least a lot less common.

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Hard to answer, really. A unit may survive battle encounters (as per Dragon Pass boardgame) intact by the look of it and still have suffered heavy casualties, although probably few permanent if they maintained cohesion. Victims of "exotic magic" like Cragspider's fire pillar or the Crater Makers annihilation strike will have seen the equivalent of a nuke. Units lost to Chaos magic (Hydra, Bat) are lost, except possibly for a few who broke away just before the encounter. And while some of those may be wise,  there will be more who simply broke and aren't fit for any kind of battle any more, unless they join a wandering chaos mob like the victims of the First Battle of Chaos, leading to Tork becoming a magical prison and Dorastor inhabited by the Grey Ones.

 

A unit losing cohesion may face heavy casualties afterwards, especially if their foe is cohesive yet mobile. But it is as likely that the flight gets covered by other friendly units, and only the breaking point casualties were sustained.

Facing Harrek or Jar-eel may turn a unit (or several) into a bloody pile of carcasses topped by the superhero, or they may simply break before their divine presence and run before the superhero can have much slaughter.

 

Another question: What do you count as a casualty on a personal level? A non-serious but debilitating wound that could not be magicked away on the battlefield? A temporary madness or panic? A period of unconsciousness? Or only permanent death or crippling?

Holding the field makes all the difference for the temporarily disabled. Getting tied up while helpless and shipped away to a slave market could be counted as a casualty. Access to one's healers literally means the difference between life and death.

 

The older Nomad Gods and White Bear and Red Moon rules had battle results like push-back or similar, while the Dragon Pass rules had something like "covered retreat" for units no faster than the attacking units, provided they leave a (most likely) sacrificial covering force to delay the enemy advance. Faster units could retreat without such covering forces. These tactics (and Zone of Control) were a major tactical factor in the invasion by turn X scenarios, where "turn X" describes the time until a full fyrd and/or powerful allies could be mustered.

Such covering rearguards usually suffer significant casualties. They are the stuff of war poetry, whether Roland, Huor and Hurin, the nameless Viking axe warrior of Stamford Bridge, or Terasarin, and, to be honest, somewhat incomprehensible to civilians.

 

The longer Dragon Pass scenarios also had a "reserves" rule that allowed a portion of the lost units' battle power to be fielded again after a number of turns, indicating some rallying and sped-up healing of units lost (in addition to neutralizing attrition in surviving units).

 

There are a few "count the survivors on either side by the fingers of one hand" battles in Glorantha, but they are rare. The Dragonkill and the Night of Horrors are the most famous/notorious.

The storm of Boldhome was one of the bloodier battles, with heavy casualties on both sides, and the storm on Whitewall was atrocious when you look at the Lunar casualties. The Building Wall Battle is a major troop killer, too, on both sides - Esrolian regiments sacrificed to become part of the wall, and Lunar regiments whose orders got meaningless yet unremanded, dying useless deaths attacking a suddenly appearing fortification. On the other hand, Fazzur's campaigns appear to have been fought usually with minimal losses on both sides, creating tactical situations where the opponent would rather yield than perish. Even the total destruction of the (remaining) defenders of Karse was a very limited death toll.

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45 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Another question: What do you count as a casualty on a personal level? A non-serious but debilitating wound that could not be magicked away on the battlefield? A temporary madness or panic? A period of unconsciousness? Or only permanent death or crippling?

I'm interested about casualties meaning death, permanent crippling, permanent madness etc. As a gamemaster I'm interested about how many men both sides have left for the battles in the future.

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3 hours ago, Harrek said:

Thanks. I quess that in most of the battles, it's the breaking of the morale that keeps the casualties relativily low. This means that the losing side tries to retreat/escape from the battle when things go badly (if possible). The winning side may or may not pursue them...

Um, no. The losing side takes most casualties when it routs. Most opponents will take the opportunity to take their enemies in the back as they try to flee. Heavy cavalry is most effective against a disordered foe, but often won't or can't pursue as far as light cavalry. Given the limitations of battlefield communication (even with magic) units in battle often can't tell what is happening beyond their own boundary, unless they are not engaged, or are in the rear and see their side streaming away. An army often breaks piecemeal, until individual companies or regiments fleeing turns into a full scale rout. A general may be able to order their reserve to retreat, and individual unit commanders (often at the company/century level) may be able to hold their troops together to attempt to retreat in good order, but they may be isolated and surrounded, and be overrun.

The only case where this might not happen is relatively small-scale conflict between neighbors, especially if they are closely related, and there's an agreement that the defeated won't be pursued. However, such agreements are rare, and not always held to.

Actual figures of casualty levels vary, but a routing army often takes four or five times the casualties of the victors. It can depend on terrain (if they are trapped by a river, ravine etc. then a total loss is possible), the weather, time of day (if the enemy aren't trolls, the defeated may have an advantage in the dark) and on the quality of their officers and 'NCOs'.

Edited by M Helsdon

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2 minutes ago, M Helsdon said:

Um, no. The losing side takes most casualties when it routs.

Agree. Two shield-walls going up against each other – hoplites especially – is substantially a pushing match with low casualties. Once one side breaks, the carnage begins.

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1 hour ago, Harrek said:

I'm interested about casualties meaning death, permanent crippling, permanent madness etc. As a gamemaster I'm interested about how many men both sides have left for the battles in the future.

Some of my thoughts on the subject, all non-canonical, but I've spent quite a bit of time researching wounds and warfare:

Weapons and Wounds

In a shield-wall or phalanx, a fighter in the front ranks is most likely to sustain injuries to the head, lower legs and forearms.

Wounds to the legs will incapacitate a foeman and allow an easy kill as they lie on the ground, or they may be trampled underfoot; often these injuries are on the right shin, where a right-handed warrior will be closest to their foe.

Forearm wounds are often defensive injuries when the loss of a shield or weapon means that the arm is used to fend off the blow. In a phalanx, an enemy’s spear may pierce a shield and penetrate the left arm or chest behind it.

The head is an obvious target; even if the attack does not pierce a helmet, the target might be disorientated or knocked unconscious. Sling-bullets, maces and clubs may all cause depressed skull fractures, difficult to treat if survived because of the resulting bone splinters, and often immediately fatal.

In the ordered battle-line, soldiers are most likely to take injuries on the left side, from right-handed opponents. When a formation breaks, those who flee are most likely to suffer injuries to the back of their bodies.

Members of the rear ranks are frequently not as well armored as those at the front. Lacking the same protection, they are more vulnerable to injuries to the chest and abdomen.

The head and forearms of infantry are most prone to injury by a mounted attacker, and conversely, the rider is prone to leg and thigh wounds as the easiest part of the body for infantry to reach.

Different weapons cause different injuries: piercing, cutting, crushing.

Slashes and cuts, if not leading to catastrophic blood loss, may heal naturally if the wounds are cleaned and bound. A combination of lesser wounds can lead to unconsciousness or death due to blood loss.

Deep piercing wounds are more problematical if they puncture vital organs, and are more likely to be fatal. Both spears and arrows can penetrate deeply into the body, via a relatively small entry wound.

Whilst a warrior might be pierced by numerous arrows and survive, spear wounds, especially from a sarissa, lance or kontos are more deadly, penetrating body armor, and perhaps coming out the other side. The added impetus of a mounted lance or kontos makes them yet more deadly.

Many stabbing weapons are twisted on exit to increase the size of the exit wound. The three blades of a trilobate arrowhead make it difficult to staunch bleeding because it is difficult to close and stitch together the edges of the jagged entry wound. Barbed arrows and javelins are more problematic to remove without tearing the flesh. Sometimes it is necessary to allow the surrounding tissue to putrefy and soften before attempting extraction.

Ironically, armor can complicate the treatment of wounds where a spear- or arrowhead is still in the body, as it must be taken off before attempting to treat the injury. The shaft effectively pins the armor to the body.

Bludgeoning wounds crush tissue and break bones. It can be no coincidence that a stout helmet is said to have been the earliest piece of armor, when clubs were among the simplest weapons. A severe blow to the head is often sufficient to disable an enemy even if they are not slain. A severe injury to the left or right side of the skull will cause long-term paralysis on the opposite side of the body.

Crush injuries are often larger in extent than those caused by a blade or arrow, and take longer to heal naturally.

Incendiary weapons and magic can cause severe burns, resulting in blistering and severe tissue damage.

Certain materials bring their own hazards. Iron is poisonous to elves and trolls, but bone and stone weapons can be a threat to anyone. Blades and arrowheads of these materials can leave slivers deep in a wound, impeding healing. Bone is also porous, meaning that it can be soaked in poison, or even dipped in dung.

A few weapons have magical properties, including potent curses, that may afflict their victims – and sometimes their owner. Though relatively rare, potent weapons often bear a curse that they will at some point cause the death of their wielder.

Magic healing, discussed later, can often mitigate many wounds that are not immediately fatal.

 

Wounds and Disease

Damage to the body often leads to inflammation or putrefaction, and sickness and disease will claim many who survive combat if they are not quickly treated.

Even if not intentionally poisoned, wounds may draw disease spirits. Some Lhankor Mhy scholars speculate that this is because the integrity of the soul is broken by foreign matter left in the wound, weakening the natural spiritual immunity to such entities. They note that punctures of the gut are particularly deadly in this regard.

 

Magical Healing

Healing

The availability of magical healing often permits fighters to survive wounds that might otherwise be disabling or deadly. However, this rarely lessens the trauma of sustaining such injuries, and Gloranthan warriors are frequently scarred or mutilated physically and mentally.

Champions and wealthy warriors can often heal themselves in the midst of combat, if they risk the distraction. Poorer fighters must instead rely upon a fortunate comrade or upon a healer.

Battles are bloody affairs, and despite the widespread traditions of the honor and glory of war, they remain scenes of carnage and terror.

The opportunity for a soldier to heal themselves or be healed in the press of a shield-wall or phalanx is often limited, unless their comrades in the next rank can pull them back from the fray to where a dedicated healer might aid them. If a fighter falls, they are liable to be trodden underfoot by the enemy or by their own comrades. When advancing over the fallen, an enemy will often casually stab incapacitated foes, simply to ensure they do not recover and then assail them from the rear.

If a severe wound is taken to the chest or head, then even a fighter with healing magic cannot heal themselves. If they can, they may staunch the blood loss but still need assistance to remove the weapon, if it is still in the wound.

Some wounds are beyond the capability of magic to easily heal, and whilst fighters may survive, some are inevitably crippled for life. Gloranthan warriors are more likely survive but the incidence of lost eyes, limbs, hands or fingers is high.

In dire peril or dying, fighters may beg their deity to save them, and sometimes this happens. A War God, however, is likely to return their worshipper to the fray with little concern for their fate.

 

Resurrection

Resurrection is available, but often reserved only for senior officers, champions, and Heroes and their companions. It is also not without cost, for even if it works, the subject may return with a loss of knowledge and skills, and may suffer from Relife Sickness, unable to fully cope with their return to life. Some may be attracted to cults associated with the Death Rune if they are not already initiated into one.

As soldiers, they are more likely to throw themselves into deadly situations, such as attempting to break a shield-wall by grasping an enemy’s shield or be among the first through a breach in an enemy wall or to clamber up an assault ladder. Such warriors are militarily useful, but their comrades are wary of their obvious death wish. As officers or warleaders they are more likely to take risks that will get themselves and their soldiers killed.

Heroes and demigods can often bring themselves out of the Land of the Dead and return with little apparent change to the world of the living. This is not a reliable process, and history is full of tales of Heroes who eventually failed to return.

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30 minutes ago, M Helsdon said:

The losing side takes most casualties when it routs. Most opponents will take the opportunity to take their enemies in the back as they try to flee. Heavy cavalry is most effective against a disordered foe, but often won't or can't pursue as far as light cavalry.

"The only true rule for cavalry is to follow the enemy as long as he retreats."
- Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

Always loved that quote. Really captures the cavalry spirit and also hammers home the point of a rout being devastating.

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3 minutes ago, Grievous said:

"The only true rule for cavalry is to follow the enemy as long as he retreats."
- Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

Always loved that quote. Really captures the cavalry spirit and also hammers home the point of a rout being devastating.

Mostly true for light cavalry (animal and rider lightly armored if at all), but not so true in ancient warfare, where heavily armored cataphracti who pursue too far, can themselves become isolated and destroyed. Heavy horse armor significantly reduces the range of heavy cavalry. There are several cases in our ancient history where one side's cavalry was drawn off to pursue a retreat (or a feigned retreat) and either failed to return, or returned too late to influence the outcome.

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1 hour ago, M Helsdon said:

Mostly true for light cavalry (animal and rider lightly armored if at all), but not so true in ancient warfare, where heavily armored cataphracti who pursue too far, can themselves become isolated and destroyed. Heavy horse armor significantly reduces the range of heavy cavalry. There are several cases in our ancient history where one side's cavalry was drawn off to pursue a retreat (or a feigned retreat) and either failed to return, or returned too late to influence the outcome.

That is certainly true, and the quote of course comes from a time when there was pretty much only light cavalry around, so "the only true rule" is somewhat contextual. But yes, the point still being valid that routing tends to lead to horrible casualties.

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4 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

In a shield-wall or phalanx, a fighter in the front ranks is most likely to sustain injuries to the head, lower legs and forearms.

And the ranks behind the shield-wall are fighters with longer-range weapons (spears, pikes, picks) to keep the opposing front ranks from getting too close.

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4 hours ago, M Helsdon said:

Um, no. The losing side takes most casualties when it routs.

I know. What I was after is that some secondary units might not even get to actual battle, because they see their comrades butchered in the first wave few dozen meters ahead and they flee from the battle scene unharmed. 

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1 hour ago, Yelm's Light said:

And the ranks behind the shield-wall are fighters with longer-range weapons (spears, pikes, picks) to keep the opposing front ranks from getting too close.

Shield-walls in the real world were rarely that tidy, and pikes and picks would be decidedly uncommon. Shield-walls are all about getting very close; phalanxes are different.

1 hour ago, Harrek said:

I know. What I was after is that some secondary units might not even get to actual battle, because they see their comrades butchered in the first wave few dozen meters ahead and they flee from the battle scene unharmed. 

If the battle-line was 'butchered' any a few dozen meters behind would be unlikely to be unharmed if they broke and fled.

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Harrumph. Because of the large number of ways to fight a battle, I would actually assume a Total Army Kill to be more common. Apart from attacking by land, air or water, you also have erupting out of the ground, sending in various elementals to change the landscape, teleporting in to assassinate the opponent leaders or perhaps just poison the supplies, mental attacks, spirit attacks, sorcerous attacks, etc etc. Not to mention the variety of foes that may turn up, with a wide range of abilities and power levels. 

A shield wall or other simplistic formation in this situation is an invitation to get blasted to bits by a more sophisticated opponent. So a serious army would have to master many, many situations and, as might be familiar to some, perhaps rely on spreading out and being as invisible and fast as possible to avoid being the target of Cannons, Crater Makers and other weapons of mass destruction. Load up the soldiers on offensive matrices too, if you can afford it. 

In summary, because of the wide variety of dangers on the Gloranthan battlefield it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by some fresh and unknown opponent and have your entire force wiped out. 

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5 hours ago, The God Learner said:

Harrumph. Because of the large number of ways to fight a battle, I would actually assume a Total Army Kill to be more common. Apart from attacking by land, air or water, you also have erupting out of the ground, sending in various elementals to change the landscape, teleporting in to assassinate the opponent leaders or perhaps just poison the supplies, mental attacks, spirit attacks, sorcerous attacks, etc etc. Not to mention the variety of foes that may turn up, with a wide range of abilities and power levels. 

And that is why all the cultures in Glorantha have warfare traditions that send in preliminary fights by champions or heralds or similar, to get a taste of what they are facing.

Also, all cultures in Glorantha are survivors of the Chaos Wars, descended from folk who figured out (whether by intent or by sheer luck) when to fight and when to hide or submit. The cultures which did not aren't around any more.

Now I don't claim by "virtue" of being a second generation refugee to have good knowledge, let alone experience, how to deal with being on the run from an unstoppable invading army with a vengeance. But I know the tales, and the cautioning, and I'll try to pass them on.

 

5 hours ago, The God Learner said:

A shield wall or other simplistic formation in this situation is an invitation to get blasted to bits by a more sophisticated opponent.

If you are thinking pike regiment vs. automatic weapons (as in the 1632 series of temporal displacement novels) you are right, and there was a similar effect at Liegnitz when the Mongols denied melee until the local forces were sufficiently softened up for their own well-disciplined heavy cavalry. But in Glorantha, a shield wall or other such formation becomes an entity of itself, usually actively promoted by bonding and pre-battle rites, that makes such formations feasible where a non-magical world would mow them down like daisies on a lawn.

 

5 hours ago, The God Learner said:

So a serious army would have to master many, many situations and, as might be familiar to some, perhaps rely on spreading out and being as invisible and fast as possible to avoid being the target of Cannons, Crater Makers and other weapons of mass destruction. Load up the soldiers on offensive matrices too, if you can afford it. 

There are some risks you cannot avoid. There is always the Black Company (Glen Cook) or Order of the Thirty (David Gemmel's Drenai series) way of securing a kernel for a new incarnation of the company away from the battle if your unit is professional or religiously dedicated.

Short of accompanying a Superhero or Dragon, there is no escape from the (one) annihilation strike of the Crater Makers, Cragspider's Pillar of Fire, the Storm Walkers spiritual utuma storm, or the circular Earth Shaker Falling Hills effect. But these have been extremely rare on battlefields, some getting battles named after them.

Suffering attacks by the Cannon Cult, the ordinary Crater Maker moonrock shower or the Wind Children sylphs are much less lethal. They do form a physical attack that can only passively resisted, and may result in a unit losing coherence due to massive casualties, but many of those non-lethal casualties can be saved by healers. In the boardgame, you had to roll reallly well to pick more than a skirmisher or magician unit (the latter would of course be the favored victim) as consequence of the attack (and the Sartar MU magicians have a much stronger bodyguard detachment, or are able fighters on the side).

5 hours ago, The God Learner said:

In summary, because of the wide variety of dangers on the Gloranthan battlefield it is all too easy to be overwhelmed by some fresh and unknown opponent and have your entire force wiped out. 

Not at all convinced, since these are troops that can expect to be summoned to fight chaos a couple of time during their period of service. If you have fought Chaos and survived it, you may have some PTSD, but you will be ready for foul tricks with enemies unknown. And you probably have a few that you hold back from honorable battle, too.

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7 hours ago, The God Learner said:

A shield wall or other simplistic formation in this situation is an invitation to get blasted to bits by a more sophisticated opponent. So a serious army would have to master many, many situations and, as might be familiar to some, perhaps rely on spreading out and being as invisible and fast as possible to avoid being the target of Cannons, Crater Makers and other weapons of mass destruction. Load up the soldiers on offensive matrices too, if you can afford it. 

Professional regiments will have their own magic to strengthen their formation. Massive magical attacks in the Third Age only arose with the formation of the Lunar Magical Regiments, and account in no small part for their ability to overwhelm their foes. However, such regiments are rare (even the Lunars don't have many), with Argrath the first to counter them with a few magical regiments of his own. When powerful magical artillery, whether meteors or cannon shot, is in play, ordinary regiments may be devastated easily, but such powerful forces are rare.

Other that the Lunar (and later Sartarite) innovations, warfare in Glorantha is conservative, with forces that are used to fighting likely opponents. Indeed, many regiments adhere to particular formations and traditions because to do otherwise will compromise their fighting ability.

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There was the idea discussed here in another thread that the magic-as-WMD thing really only happens during the Hero Wars, developed first by the Lunars and then by Argrath's Sartar Magical Union. I think that's at least true in the current age in Glorantha, but certainly similar things may have cropped up in earlier times. So, maybe most Gloranthan current armies aren't quite so accustomed to taking such things into account and thus may actually fight more traditional-like. Of course, that's not to say magic isn't a huge factor, there's still going to lots of less world-shattering magic going around which brings in things that are indeed quite unlike our history (like crazy flying Orlanthi).

This brings up a dichotomy that comes up in considering fantasy warfare, which is certainly present in Glorantha. I think most people initially want to approach fantasy battles as somewhat looking like their historical parallels, except just spiced up with magic. This is because people start from their expectations, which are mostly historical, but is also due to lack of a true understanding of how the magics available would change the battles (because while the magics are new to us as gamers, they wouldn't be new to the generals in-fiction). As you learn more about what makes Glorantha unique, and really start to understand the impact of various magics, you realize that this initial "simulation" of Gloranthan warfare is probably not an accurate rendition of how battles here should really look.

At this point one struggles with the question of whether to a ) work with game mechanical implications as first principles in defining how war should look or b ) sticking with a more "Glorantha is historical warfare, just spiced up with magic" approach, which may not hold up under intellectual scrutiny or power-gamer abuse. I know that this is a dichotomy that I run into in my thinking quite often. 

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Thanks for your excellent ideas. Let's see how all this transfers to our campaing. The main idea seems to be that it really is up to GM how a particular battle goes. I think we'll apply some kind of fixed casualty rates depending on the battle (who is fighting against who, purpose of the battle - - > skirmish vs kill them all etc. ) and modifying that with possible special circumtances (heroes etc) . 

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2 hours ago, Grievous said:

There was the idea discussed here in another thread that the magic-as-WMD thing really only happens during the Hero Wars, developed first by the Lunars and then by Argrath's Sartar Magical Union. I think that's at least true in the current age in Glorantha, but certainly similar things may have cropped up in earlier times. So, maybe most Gloranthan current armies aren't quite so accustomed to taking such things into account and thus may actually fight more traditional-like. Of course, that's not to say magic isn't a huge factor, there's still going to lots of less world-shattering magic going around which brings in things that are indeed quite unlike our history (like crazy flying Orlanthi).

This brings up a dichotomy that comes up in considering fantasy warfare, which is certainly present in Glorantha. I think most people initially want to approach fantasy battles as somewhat looking like their historical parallels, except just spiced up with magic. This is because people start from their expectations, which are mostly historical, but is also due to lack of a true understanding of how the magics available would change the battles (because while the magics are new to us as gamers, they wouldn't be new to the generals in-fiction). As you learn more about what makes Glorantha unique, and really start to understand the impact of various magics, you realize that this initial "simulation" of Gloranthan warfare is probably not an accurate rendition of how battles here should really look.

At this point one struggles with the question of whether to a ) work with game mechanical implications as first principles in defining how war should look or b ) sticking with a more "Glorantha is historical warfare, just spiced up with magic" approach, which may not hold up under intellectual scrutiny or power-gamer abuse. I know that this is a dichotomy that I run into in my thinking quite often. 

Any discussion of Gloranthan warfare should start with pages 13-15 of the Guide to Glorantha. In a nutshell, here's the key section:

Gloranthan Warfare

Gloranthan warfare is superficially similar to that of our world. Formations of foot or horse fight under the leadership of a king, general, priest, magician, or warlord against their enemies. Ambushes, skirmishes, field battles, and sieges are used to break an enemy’s will to resist, just as in the wars of our own world.

Unlike our own Earth, in Glorantha magic plays a decisive, often even primary, role in warfare. Priests cast bolts of lightning or call down flames from the heavens; shamans can unleash spirits like the all-consuming Oakfed; devotees of war or storm gods can shatter regiments; and the Lunar Empire has units like the Field School of Magic, the Crater Makers, or the awesome Crimson Bat that can decimate entire armies. In Glorantha, victory is often not on the side with the biggest battalions, but the side with the mightiest gods and spirits!

This can have surprising results; for example, a Paleolithic band of hunter-gatherers, backed up by powerful shamans, can overwhelm a superior civilized phalanx lacking magical support. The few armies that are both magically powerful and organizationally sophisticated (in particular, the Lunar Army) are terrifying indeed.

The magical elements of Gloranthan warfare can dominate a battle in many ways; for example: 

·       Orlanthi storm worshipers can fly through the air wielding lightning and thunder.

·       Lunar magicians can call down meteors from the Red Moon to annihilate entire regiments.

·       Wizards can cast spells that manipulate natural laws, such as making bronze harder than iron, or causing fire to erupt from the air.

·       Priests, shamans, or wizards can summon elemental events, such as flood, storm, earthquake, volcano, or even a wall of fire.

As a result, Gloranthan armies often use tactics or strategies that would make no sense in our world but may be fundamental to using their army’s magic to its best effect. Armies are often assembled according to sacred formulae and combatants are often chosen to best match ancient myths. Certain individuals or units may lack any direct military value, but must be present for other regiments to use their own best magic.

---------

Martin Helsdon has put together an excellent resource booklet on the subject, that I personally use as my go-to reference book.

 

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The Lunar College of Magic has only two WMD units, the one-use exotic effect of the Crater Makers, and the Crimson Bat. The rest of their magicians are of the "manifest and project your regimental spirit" type, like the Sartar Magical Union, the tribal magicians from the Barbarian Horde, the Trachodons, the dragonewt priest units, or the Exiles magicians.

Much that the Lunars developed was done in response to the Carmanian sorcerers who had dominated Peloria prior to the birth of the Goddess. Before that, the best magical attack may have been coordinated Sunspears by a group of Yelm priests.

Palangio's host may have had ranged-attack magicians in its ranks. He had the support of the Greatway Dwarves and of Aldryami, and grudgingly but then consistently of dragonewts (of which he placed a colony, along with their own dragonet, in Ryzel, making that western approach more difficult).

The dragonewt priests had been able to project some spirit entity onto their foes from a distance since before Time. Possibly some not quite materialized Dream Dragon. I wonder what shapes the Trachodon spirits would have taken. (And whether dinosaurs were involved in Dragon Pass warfare outside of dragonewt control before the EWF at all.)

 

Cragspider is a long-established power in Dragon Pass. We first hear of her when she creates the Great Trolls as a way to redeem troll mothers who have given birth to a litter of trollkin. It isn't clear when she adopts that drider body, when she subdues the Black Dragon, and when she first manifested her Pillar of Fire, although she certainly did so in opposition to Ingolf Dragonfriend somewhat later in the Second Age.

 

EWF and God Learners did use WMDs, like Tanian's Fire, or draconic manifestations of EWF leaders (Drang, Lorenkargatan the Mile, the Sun Dragon, Great Lord Burin and possibly others in more offensive manner than Ingolf). Similar events are exceedingly rare - the burnings of the Rist and Eol forests and whatever happened at the Night of Horrors are the nuke equivalents of the Lunar Empire and the nomads, with the manifestations of Chaos or the Four Arrows of Light secondary events paling to these scales.

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Don't forget the Earth Shakers have a WMD.  That large crack in the earth that swallows entire regiments.

Some might classify Harrek, Jar-Eel and Androgeus as WMD's

Edited by Pentallion

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5 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Don't forget the Earth Shakers have a WMD.  That large crack in the earth that swallows entire regiments.

Sufficiently large Sunspears - such as at Pennel Ford - could also count. 

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